Sex-Offender Commitment Law Upheld by U.S. High Court

May 17, 2010

businessweek.com: Sex-Offender Commitment Law Upheld by U.S. High Court.

Unbelievably, SCOTUS ruled today that the US government now has the power to indefinitely imprison its citizens beyond their sentences. This is a dangerous affront to our constitutional rights and gives the federal government virtually unlimited power to imprison anyone beyond their due process sentence for almost any reason.

The Supreme Court upheld a federal law that allows the civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” people, including those whose federal prison terms have expired.

The justices, voting 7-2, today ruled that Congress acted within its constitutional authority in enacting the 2006 measure, which affects people already in federal custody.

The law, part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, was challenged by five men held under it. Four of them have completed prison sentences for sex crimes, while the fifth was held incompetent to stand trial on charges of sexually abusing a child. They are being held in a treatment facility in Butner, North Carolina.

Before the law’s enactment, the federal government’s civil commitment power covered people in U.S. custody who were found incompetent to stand trial, found not guilty by reason of insanity or determined after conviction to be mentally ill.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. Thomas said the majority “comes perilously close to transforming the necessary and proper clause into a basis for the federal police power that we have always rejected.”

The case is United States v. Comstock, 08-1224.

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